Monday, April 30, 2007


Sunday, April 29, 2007

This Is What Your Grandfather Used To Do

I had to get some gas today; the car was getting too close to empty, although (since I don’t travel far) I usually let it get down pretty far.

A long, long time ago, I used to work in a gas station. That was when people would pull in and ask for “$2 worth,” and I would get the pump going, clean the front and back windows, check the oil and get back to the nozzle before the pump hit the $2 mark.

As I said, that was a long time ago.

It was also a time when you needed to check the oil level, which you don’t these days. You also needed to check the battery acid level, another practice that’s gone by. When we changed a customer’s oil, we also put the grease gun into the fittings (I recall there being about seven or eight) and, even earlier, squirting some foul stuff onto the rubber grommets underneath the car to keep them supple.

That was back when cars’ odometers had five numbers, because not too many cars were going to go “over the top” and make it past 100,000 miles.

Gas is probably cheaper than it ever was, when you factor in the inflation value and not the absolute cost. Cars don’t go through a quart of oil every 300 miles, nor do they need to be greased. Odometers have six figures.

And I am no longer a grease monkey, down in the pit changing oil and plugging tires.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Birds Are Making A Racket

The birds were making quite a racket today. They’ve probably been around, but it wasn’t until I was out this afternoon that I really noticed the noise, all kinds and all pitches.

Years ago, I ran across a ten-inch 33rpm album of bird sounds, most of them slowed down to maybe 1/8 or less of their original speed. The complexity of the birds’ songs is amazing. They aren’t just quick chirps, but perhaps the exercise of an excellent whistler (at, let’s say, 1/8 speed) which we can’t really hear in real-life. Whatever they are saying, I’m sure the other birds can figure it out.

I wonder if one kind of bird can understand another. Or are they different languages and one kind of bird never knows what another kind of bird is trying to get across? If they are like us, that could cause some amusement . . . and/or some problems.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll keep an eye on them, as we have a lot of trees around here and they probably hang out in the branches. I’ve never seen one kind of bird attack another kind, so maybe they just keep to themselves. Or, they might have had tolerance lessons early in life so they respect each other’s plumage, rather than bonding together against the robins, or the chickadees or hummingbirds.

Of course, meat eaters (like robins) aren’t going to care much about seed eaters; they don’t have to compete for food. A robin foraging for food has eyes only for a nice juicy worm and could care less about the poppy seeds that fell off your breakfast bagel, or that early birds get the worms.

Back From The Newspaper

Just got back from the newspaper and, here it is after midnight again. I really have to post earlier in the day, as this shows up as a Saturday post when it really is for Friday.

I used to hear the old folks ask where the time went and wonder what they were talking about. Usually, I was half-bored during the day. There were too many hours and never quite enough things to do. Then I reached a point in life when it pretty much balanced out and I could fit things in just right. Now I’m one of those old folks who don’t know where the time has gone.

It’s probably nothing more than an accumulation of activities and such that fill the hours we had too many of before. When I was a kid, I probably read only one science publication and now I get three. I used to watch trains and now I get two or three trains magazines. I read one newspaper and now it’s two or three.

At least the time is going somewhere useful and not being wasted by watching some mindless afternoon tv show where everybody is screaming a lot and jumping up and down. There seem to be a lot of those these days. Before, you would get the fairly quiet humor of Art Linkletter, the slow and easy pace of “Club 60” or the live puppet shows in the afternoon. I don’t know if tv was any better then, although I suspect it was, but it certainly was quieter and more relaxed.

Still, I’d rather post an hour or two late because I was busily occupied, rather than because I was watching people screaming and clapping and jumping up and down.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Is It Still Thursday?

Well, actually it’s a little after midnight and we’re into Friday. So let’s pretend that it’s really Thursday somewhere in this country. Mountain Time; that’s it: Mountain Daylight Time is where we’re posting from on Thursday night, a little after 11:00pm.

(‘zat gonna work?)

I’m as bad as the students. They used to come into my office and, somewhat breathlessly, ask to interview me about one thing or another. I’d patiently ask, “When is this due, and when was it assigned?” Pretty much nailed it each time: It was due the next day and it had been assigned at least a month earlier.

We have all the time in the world and there are other things that need doing. Then we get all involved in what needs be done and, uh-oh, as I go out the door to get the newspapers right off the press, I suddenly realize the daily blog has not been blogged.

I had things pretty well planned out. Go for the newspapers, then over to the office where my cruise diary is waiting for me (from the Cruise Critic site, edited and formatted, on a Word document), back here and horizontal in no time flat.

By the way, if any of my readers want a copy of that diary which, believe me, is unlike any diary you have read of someone’s travels, I’ll send it along. Most people who know me don’t have liquid in their mouths when they read it. They know from years past wht to expect.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

What Does A Shoe Horn Play?

Footnotes. But you already knew that.

Speaking of which, I broke another shoelace today. That’s 0-2 for the skinny little things which, I think, came from the dollar store. Next set of laces will be from the two-dollar store; perhaps I’ll have better luck.

You’d think there might be a standard of quality for these things. For everything. Maybe that’s why we have brand names; we know what’s inside when the name is on the outside. Up until recently, when brand names seem to be bought and sold so that they are hardly worth their imprint.

I’m sure there must be one for shoelaces and when I go down to the Square, I’ll look for something familiar. At the moment, I can’t think of any.

There appear to be brand names for everything in this world. No matter what you want, even down to kitty litter (I use recycled newspapers made into pellets, “Yesterdays News”), there is a brand.

Having said that, and having also fallen asleep while writing this, I think I’ll take the Tom Carten brand of person over to my something brand of mattress and see you in this spot sometime on Thursday.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Best Value For Money Spent

You don’t have to be cheap, but it helps – especially if you don’t have a lot of money to be tossing around. If you have the money, of course, spend it; that’s what the stuff is made for. Cabbage, simoleons, greenbacks, dead presidents, moolah, bread, whatever . . . it’s not the root of all evil, as you hear it quoted; it’s the love of money that is.

I like to see how much I can get for $100/day. A tablecloth breakfast with full menu, likewise with a tablecloth lunch and supper, late-night snack, free room service day and night. Let’s add in entertainment in a showroom, movie in a theater, casino, nightspots with their various ambience, adequate room with tv and dvd, exercise equipment, a large library. Every morning, you wake up in another city or at another island.

Not bad; not bad at all. You find this on a cruise ship. If you book the cheap seats, and do it the right way, you can be enjoying all this and more for about one Ben Franklin a day, perhaps a bit more. You can book something better in the way of cabins, and spend a lot more, but you get the same meals, the same nightspots and the same transportation to the next spot. But it’s neat being cheap and knowing you’re paying only 1/3 or less than the folks with their own verandah.

I don’t know what the costs would be like for other vacation spots, but I keep hearing people say that cruising is the best value for money spent. As the resident cheapskate where I live, I’d have to agree with that. Got my passport, got my cruise booked for next year, ready to go.

Monday, April 23, 2007

To The Memory Of George "Jazzbow" Rihan

George “Jazzbow” Rihan, co-writer of my music column, passed away April 14 at the age of “it doesn’t matter” (as he always told me). We met for the first time on April 13, 1942. He was on his way to work, passing the hospital where I was being born. Sixty-five years and one day later he was the one being born, this time into eternal life.

We met again in 1973, when he appeared on my radio show locally and we hit it off for the next 34 years. In 1981, the Citizens’ Voice asked if I’d write a music column for weekends. I called Jazzbow; we thought it would last five years, not twenty six. Still, we managed to come up with a new topic every week and George’s amazing memory of musicians he met, concerts he attended and nightspots he’d been to was startling.

I’ve never known anyone who kept a baton behind a living room painting. I was at George’s house and some piece of music came on that he liked. He reached behind the frame and pulled out a baton, which he used to conduct the band.

During the months of his illness, he would ask every week, “What’s in the column?” And Mrs. Jazzbow, his fellow musical enthusiast, would read it to him.

I will miss him more than I can find the words.

“The song is ended, But the melody lingers on.
You and the song are gone, But the melody lingers on.”

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Monkey Was Hanging From The Curtain

There is, to my mind, absolutely nothing like a cruise. Yes, I’m in the cheap seats; yes, I have to avoid things that cost. But even a stripped-down sailing is the best value received for money spent that I can think of.

For some, there are the excitement and activities (you’ve seen the Royal Caribbean ads), for others, the freedom to do what you want and when you want to (the ads for Norwegian Cruise Line). For me, it is the quiet elegance of Holland America Line, where I can be quiet and at peace while the entertainment, dancing and nightlife take place elsewhere.

And quiet is what I am looking for. There is, for me, nothing quite like it. Hours every day when I can be alone –or relatively so— to read, look out the windows and ponder the mysteries of the universe.

One evening was a little more exciting. That was the night when, in gale conditions and perhaps two hundred miles out at sea, a crew member’s appendix burst and the Coast Guard flew a helicopter out to take him ashore. You can read all about it at post #57 in my thread, “Live From The Noordam 4/11” at (click on “boards,” then click on “Holland America Line”).

The cabin crew makes towel animals for us each evening. On the last evening of the cruise, we came back to find towel monkeys hanging from the curtain valences.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

We're Back

Things at King's is once again open for business. Stay tuned for today's thoughts.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

This Blog Will Be On Vacation

I'm leaving for vacation on Wednesday morning (11th) and will return on Saturday (21st). Check back here on Saturday night or Sunday sometime as Things at King's continues its gentle meanderings.

If you wish to follow my vacation meanderings, here's the URL:
The thread title will be "Live From The Noordam 4/11," by tomc.

I Found A Shiny New Penny

The big debate in coin circles these days seems to be: “Should we get rid of the penny?” It doesn’t have much to do except make life insignificantly difficult in retail.

“That’s $5.41.” Or, “Here’s your change, 51 cents.”

Given the value of the dollar, and the lack of value in the cent, we could round things off and never even notice it. Or just use the nickel as our basic coin of the realm. Nobody noticed when the half-cent stamp (with Ben Franklin on it) went the way of all things that go the way. I remember using them when I was a teen. Will anyone notice when the penny sort of isn’t around anymore?

Normally, what we find on the street are tired, used old coins. They’ve been around; they’ve seen things that most of use don’t see; they’ve been in registers, pockets, purses, the back of drawers and collection jars in diners.

To find a shiny new 2007 penny on the pavement – ah! That is a sight. A cheerful sight. Instead of finding the old, street-weary, dirty, down at the heels, worn penny, we have a sharp-edged, finely engraved and shiny brand-new coin.

It’s the hope of youth, watching the next generation starting out filled with excitement and promise. It’s sharp, clean and ready to be placed into nationwide circulation, helping the economy move along. In time, it will become tired and dirtied, wondering if it will be kept in circulation. But, for now, I have found a shiny new penny and it’s mine.

Monday, April 09, 2007

You'd Have To Be A News Reporter

I started becoming interested in what was happening around me, and around the world, as a teenager. Or, roughly, around the time I began working in the news department of a fairly large radio station. It stays with you, this interest.

Listening to the Valley is of interest:

An ambulance is dispatched to an elderly lady’s home, but upon arrival, the attendants call for the coroner. A kitchen fire in the Heights section, easily extinguished. Swoyersville police car 1 on a traffic stop, being backed up by Forty Fort 1.

Huh? Where is Swoyersville 2? Oh, they don’t have two cars. Neither does Forty Fort. None of those small burgs have more than one cop. Sometimes even the chief is a part-time employee. Others don’t have any cops at all.

So the scanner runs, its volume set low, barely audible. It’s the sound of life in the Valley. Who needs to know this? Anybody who looks at a traffic stop, or an auto accident, and wonders what’s going on. People who hear sirens and try to figure out where the emergency vehicles are going. All those who read the police reports in the newspaper.

I just get them quicker. Quicker, as in, “Right now.” Radio’s theory is, “When you hear it, it’s news; when you read it, it’s history.” A scanner is a reporter’s gossipy pal.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Jesus As Easter Bunny

We are far more fortunate than we might realize. I don’t mean having all the latest stuff, computers and things like that. Nor do I mean highways and airplanes and trips to the moon.

Everybody learns how to read. We wish they would learn better and realize how important it is, but at least our literacy rate is high. In the Olde Days, very few people had that ability and they were not the ordinary folks. So, to transmit knowledge, they told stories; to keep it, they used images and icons (especially those you see in the Eastern churches).

Bunnies come out of their ground homes in the early Spring, just around the time we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ. They have been used in the Eastern church since ancient days as a reminder of this Christian dogma and have become known to us as the Easter Bunny. It’s not, as some religious people claim, an anti-religious symbol, but something very religious to remind us of the season.

The Easter Egg is a symbol, on the inside, of new life, the new life promised us by the Resurrection. It is an eternal life, symbolized by the outside of the egg which, no matter which way you trace your finger, you never come to an edge or an end.

It’s unfortunate when we lose the meaning behind our symbols. I saw a program about Easter eats and they showed eggs decorated with faces and other non-religious art. Nice, but we aren’t passing on the original religious elements behind them.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

A Curious Note In The Newspaper

Just a curious fact that popped up in the newspaper yesterday. It seems that the Sugar Notch Borough council passed a motion to disband the pension fund for the community’s police force. At first glance, it seems like a lousy thing to do to these brave people, but on second glance – well, let’s quote the newspaper: “Though council members could not recall when the fund was initiated, they said that no money was ever invested in it.”

For those who visit this blog from far away, Sugar Notch is a small borough. Very small. In the suburban news section of a former Sunday newspaper, it was combined with another equally-tiny burg as “Sugar Notch – Warrior Run.” Currently, it’s “Ashley – Sugar Notch.” Yes, there are smaller, we just don’t know where.

Anyway, you would think that a tiny little dot on the map would have enough of a corporate memory to recall when the police force’s pension fund was set up; someone would have remembered approx when they did it. Then they would see to it that money was allotted every month so, as the cops retired, there would be a little something for them.

Unless they got a hankering for something big, like Warrior Run.

Everybody has a story.
Dr. Peter Schneeman, local resident and highly respected educator, died last week. He had taught in several universities, both here and in Europe, as well as receiving a number of distinguished honors. His first job was as a cowboy in Montana.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Good, Better, Best Friday

It’s Good Friday, one of the most sacred days in the Christian calendar. We use this day to remember that, a long time ago, someone was born who was not only fully human, but also fully divine. The Creator of the universe visited one of the planets to bring a message of hope, forgiveness and salvation to all who dwell here.

I wonder how many other planets have received this same type of visit? How many people have shared their “humanity” with divinity and in what way did they save the inhabitants of that world?

Agnostics like to believe that God created us, then went out for coffee and never came back. Atheists like to believe that we just sort of ambled onto the scene for no particular reason and the universe sort of always was around, or maybe slowly came into existence from nowhere.

Neither one makes much sense. If I were to create conscious beings, I’d keep a loving eye on them, much as parents do with their children. And, certainly, you can’t have a universe just come into being from nothing. We’re here because someone created us and, a long time ago, quietly walked among us showing how to get it right.

Everybody has a story.
Ann Celano threw out the first pitch at the local Triple-A franchise yesterday. She pitched straight, but the ball didn’t go very far at all. It should be mentioned that Ann used to watch Babe Ruth in 1923 and she is 98 years old.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Four . . . Three . . .

I see where another World War I vet has passed on. Keen observers of this site will remember that on March 29, we recorded the passing of the oldest WW1, and last surviving woman, vet. This time, it’s Lloyd Brown, the last known U.S. Navy veteran. There are three known survivors at this point, all from the Army, and a person in Washington state who served in the Canadian army.

You look at the photos from that war, an ugly, dirty thing which accomplished nothing and I don’t know how many thousands of dead and injured landed in the mud. The last woman and sailor just left us and there’s only three soldiers left.

Statistically, we lose about a thousand WW2 veterans every day (or so we are told by those who would have us remember the vets). Each war “ages out” and gives way to those who served in the next war. When you pass a really old cemetery in New England, you can look back to people who fought the Redcoats in the initial battles that separated us from England.

I wonder what it must be like to know you are the last, or one of the last, soldiers to have served in what we now call WW1. Break out the bottle for the Last Man’s Club.

Everybody has a story.
Naomi O’Hara, 91, a former local resident, left us the other day. She had been a nurse and, among other places, served with the Army Nurse Corps at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, where she participated in the development of penicillin.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

April 4, 2006 -- April 4, 2007

Notes on a first anniversary.

As blogs go, this one seems to be fairly successful. I’ve managed to post nonstop, every day, except during my cruise vacations. (For my online daily cruise diary, I’ll post the URL later.) Blog readership tends to vary between one and ten people, while “Things At King’s” seems to have a much higher audience, one spread over the U.S. and Canada, not to mention the people at King’s.

I’ve chatted about whatever topic comes to mind when I bring up the blog page. Then, 5.2” later (on the original Word document), I’m done. Sometimes I find something interesting in a local obituary that I want to note; everybody really does have a story.

If anyone had told me I would still be writing an original essay a year later, I’d probably not believe them. Will I find enough topics to be noting another anniversary on April 4, 2008? Probably; there are a lot of thoughts out in the universe and someone has to catch them for the enjoyment of all.

Everybody has a story.
Chet Grelecki, former local resident, passed away last month. He performed research and development of liquid rocket propellants and engines. His pioneering chemistry studies laid the foundation for much of the aerospace age. The first moon landing by Surveyor used Chet’s patented fuel blend that brought the rockets to the moon.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

"Don't Spin The Dial"

Mom could not see the value in a tv remote control. “I hope I never get to the point where I am too lazy to get up and walk to the set and change channels,” she said.

Then she got a tv that came with a remote and no controls on the front. “I got used to this quickly,” were her first words.

In the old days of click-dial channel selectors, sometimes you had to go a distance from one favorite station to another. The temptation was to spin it, but you always heard, “Don’t spin the dial!” Apparently, the thing would fall off or fall apart; nobody ever actually saw it happen, but we all knew it would.

When I went into broadcast engineering, I saw my share of tv innards. Those old tuner barrels could take a direct hit from a hammer and not even wince; I doubt a lifetime of spinning would make a bit of difference.

I’ve heard many a story as to why there is no Channel One on our tv sets. Amazing stories. At the risk of deflating any conspiracy theories and/or Government Secrets, the answer is quite simple: There was an amateur radio band where Channel Two is now and the FCC thought it would be better to have the amateurs on one side of a tv channel, instead of on the side of two. So it moved the amateur operators to what would have been Channel One, where it remains, and started the tv band with Channel Two.

I much prefer the story that it’s a secret CIA channel.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Is One Hotdog A Picnic?

We just had a thunderstorm. Well, it was legally a thunderstorm because there was a flash of lightning and a clap of thunder. That’s it; one video and one audio.

Reminds me of a Fourth of July parade we had in Pittsford VT one year. Somebody holding a flag went down the street of this, literally, wide spot in the road town, then the Girl Scouts marched by, then a little band, a pickup truck with something on it and that was the parade. Until they got to the end and turned around for another fly-by.

Some events in life barely qualify. Does one flash and one rumble count as a thunderstorm? If your barn gets hit, yes; if the weather report says, “Possible thunderstorm tonight,” then yes.

Reminds me of a radio station I used to work at. Every day during the summer, we’d end the weather forecast with, “Slight chance of widely scattered thunderstorms.” We figured that maybe someone, somewhere might have a storm – and if nobody did, listeners might think someone else got it, so we were safe.

One sneeze does not make a cold; one flash does not make a storm. Stay tuned.

Everybody has a story.
Eugene Domulevicz passed away last week. Not only a POW for more than a year in Stalag 17-B in Germany, he was also a member of the Caterpillar Club (people whose lives were saved by parachutes) for a survival jump from a burning aircraft.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Always One More Imbecile Than You Expected

There seems to be a rash of “falling off a cruise ship” events recently. Or, an increase in people falling off cruise ships. I’ve even run into people who want to know if it’s safe to take a cruise, or will they stand a chance of falling off.

It’s not exactly like climbing the rim of the Grand Canyon, wearing sneakers. It’s not even like climbing onto your roof from a ladder. It’s more like your 6-month-old falling out of a tall-sided crib.

It helps if you are sitting on the railing; it helps if you are drunk; it really helps if you are drunk *and* sitting on the railing. But first you have to get up onto the railing, and that takes some doing, because the railing is high.

You’re not really falling off the ship, nor are you jumping. We need a new term to describe what happens. “He performed an imbecilic movement” might be the right one.

Everybody has a story.
Local resident Eve Brooks passed away recently. “Eve was a talented accordionist and vocalist; as a young woman, she performed professionally and at one point in her career, she was even invited to join Bob Hope’s USO tour. Always game to try anything once, in her 70s she parasailed in Hawaii. She took great pride in her home and was even known to scrub her garage floor monthly. In her younger years, Eve was a shoe model; she was considered to have the perfect-size foot.”